City Pages - Bin Laden's Game: "CP: Can you talk about the role that the Iraq war has played in his recruiting successes?
Scheuer: I have to tell you, Sir, I'm not an expert on Iraq. I don't know what the threat was from Saddam.My own judgment is, as a nation-state [Saddam's Iraq] was probably containable. But our invasion of Iraq broke the back of our counter-terrorism policy, because it validated in the Islamic mind so much of what bin Laden had said through the past decade. He said, Americans will do anything to defeat a strong Muslim government. We took Saddam out. He said we would take on and defeat any Muslim state that threatened Israel. I think Iraq is an indication of that being true, from their perspective. He said we would occupy their sanctities and try to destroy their religion. From the Islamist's perspective, we occupy all three of their sanctities now—the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, and Jerusalem. The Israelis hold Jerusalem, but increasingly in the Islamic world, Americans and Israelis are viewed interchangeably. He said we were going to try to take all the oil from the Muslim world. And certainly the view predominates that one of the reasons we went to Iraq was oil.
And so, in terms of perception, the Iraq war was a validation of what bin Laden had said. In addition, bin Laden and Zawahiri are not trained Islamic clerics or jurists. The argument was always made that they had no authority, therefore, to declare a jihad. Well, when we invaded Iraq, it was kind of a textbook example of an event that necessitates jihad in the Islamic world. Now, any number of well-credentialed clerics and jurists and scholars have authorized jihad against the United States around the world, because we invaded a Muslim land. In my view, the invasion of Iraq accelerated the transformation of al Qaeda from a man and an organization into a philosophy and a movement.
We're at the point where it's still very important to kill—preferably to kill, or else to capture—Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri. But because of Iraq, our problem is far from over if that happens."
Michael Scheuer is an ex cia analyist. He has written a book called "Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam and the Future of America"